Category

Mental Health

Be Stress Aware!

By Awareness, Mental Health, News

Right now, it’s International Stress Awareness Week! Yes, we all say we’re stressed from time to time, but do we really appreciate what that can mean for our personal and professional lives? Do we recognise truly what makes us stressed? And more importantly, do we understand how to eliminate it for the good of our health and happiness?

Stress Awareness Week is all about putting health, happiness and wellbeing into the heart of business. But what does stress awareness mean to you, as an employee?

Causes:

Stress can come from various aspects of our lives but quite often, it actually comes from a number of places at one time and things get overwhelming. It can become an unhealthy state of body and mind and understanding the triggers which cause stress is the first step to eliminating it.

According to ISMA, 602,000 workers suffered from work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2018/2019. Fast forward to 2020 and all the challenges we’ve all had to face this year with workplace changes, working from home, furlough and more, this is set to increase. Struggling to cope with the workload and a lack of support rank high in the reasons for workplace stress. 

Stress doesn’t always come from work, though. Maybe you’re moving house, maybe you’ve recently had a baby and you’re struggling with a lack of sleep, maybe you have financial concerns or health worries. All of these are natural, normal and understandable concerns for anyone to have in 2020, and realising where your stress is coming from, helps you to digest what needs to be done.

Effects:

We often think of stress as being a mental health issue, but it may be surprising to learn that stress can also have a huge effect on our physical health too! Here’s some examples of how stress affects your body…

Physical effects:

  • Aches, pains and muscle tension
  • Frequent colds and infections
  • Extreme weight loss or gain
  • Dizziness or nausea
  • Cold or sweaty hands and feet
  • Menstrual changes or loss of libido
  • High blood pressure

Emotional and Psychological effects:

  • Tearful
  • Mood swings
  • Angry and frustrated
  • Lack of confidence or self esteem
  • Memory lapses
  • Easily distracted
  • Undue worrying
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Insomnia

You may experience one of these effects, or many of the above. However, if you notice any of these signs and feel you know the cause, there is action you can take. And taking action right now will have a positive effect on your physical and mental health for both your personal and your professional life. If you can take action, you’ll be able to perform better and work more efficiently in your job AND you’ll enjoy your down time and be able to relax even more.

Action:

It can sometimes be difficult to admit you’re struggling to cope and you may fear it show weakness. However, let’s be clear, it really isn’t! Admitting you need help, reaching out and being honest shows true strength in your ability to perform well. The more transparent you can be about how you’re doing, the more those around you can help.

  • Take time for you. Commit to spending even just a few minutes a day to yourself. Whether that’s meditating, yoga, reading, walking or anything else that lets you switch off is great. No technology! Move away from your computer and your phone and be present in the moment, breathe and focus on how you feel right now.
  • Talk to loved ones. Yes, talk, talk, talk! This is sometimes the most difficult but is easily the most effective action to take when you’re suffering with stress. Tell those closest to you how you’re feeling, why you’re feeling that way and open discussions as to what you think may help. Even just having that conversation can be a great relief.
  • Talk to your employer. It’s difficult for an employer to take action to help your work situation if you don’t tell them. If you’re good at getting the job done they may not even realise the stress you’re under. Request a meeting, grab a coffee and explain how you’re feeling. There are so many brilliant resources and solutions an employer can offer to help you out. After all, they want a happy, healthy workforce to keep business moving, so it’s for the good of everyone!
  • List your actions: Making a physical list is always a great way to tidy your mind. List your concerns. List your causes and then make notes of ideal ways you can reduce those causes. You may not be able to tackle everything in one go, but just focusing on one area at a time will begin to make a real difference.

It’s quite common for us to just accept that stress is part of our lives, but it doesn’t have to be that way. If we can take small steps to reduce our stress, it can lead to a much more fulfilling, healthy, happy life.

Learn more about how Acorn can help you and your colleagues with our Stress Awareness Courses, Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) service, Management Referral support (telephone, face to face or video), Mental Health Triages and more, on our website now.

Balance or Burn Out

By Awareness, Guidance, Mental Health, News

The world of the workplace is changing. This year has seen a monumental shift in where, how and why we work the way we do. And, as increasing pressures and demands at work can be one of the biggest worries to the mental health of people nationwide, this is becoming even more of a concern during the pandemic. The effect of increased working hours and high pressure jobs are having a huge impact on lifestyle, which can be detrimental to the sustainability of good mental health. 

There is no set system on how to create a healthy work life balance, mainly as it is susceptible to change with the varying demands of life, like having children or changing career paths. What is important though, is understanding what works for you, at a certain time and having the knowledge to control the balance between work and life. 

The Mental Health Foundation have researched that more than 40% of employees have neglected parts of their home life due to workplace stress. In turn, this can increase a person’s vulnerability to mental health problems. 

Juggling Pressure and Wellbeing

Whether you are a CEO of your own business or working part time, it can be overwhelming trying to juggle the daily pressures of life and keeping up to speed at work. Having a successful career is more significant to some people and raising a family is the most important job to others – that is why there is no right or wrong answer. But what you can do is try to prioritise for where you are currently at. 

“As a person’s weekly hours increase, so can their feelings of unhappiness” – Mental Health Foundation.

Preventing Burnouts and having a healthy wellbeing, no matter how you manage it, will help all other aspects of your life fall into place. Having time to relax and unwind will re-charge your body and mind ready for the next day, no matter what it has to bring. 

How Employers Can Help

A happy workforce is a productive workforce. Employees that have a positive work-life balance do a better job at work and promoting this can be beneficial to employers and employees alike. Far too often companies are pushing their staff to work harder and for longer hours, which tends to be for the benefit of themselves. By driving the balance of work and life into your company’s core values, you are instantly setting a standard that you have the wellbeing of your employees at the heart of the business. 

Openly having discussions with employees at work and assessing what is and isn’t working within the company is a great start and will instantly show areas that can be worked on as a team. From encouraging annual leave, the odd early finish on a Friday and discussing personal life with staff is a sure way to start open conversations and hopefully spot burn out before it’s too late.

Maintaining Work-life Balance

Work life balance is not intended to be equal on both parts. Thinking about the current demands of your professional life and personal life can be the first step into analysing what fits where.

You may find that sometimes work priorities are 70% and life is reduced to 30%, but when a family event is on the horizon it switches to 20% work and 80% life. The right balance for you today might be different from yesterday and will change again tomorrow. But that is Ok. What is important is that you are in control and being realistic to your own needs. 

Stress is often linked to a lack of work-life balance.

Stress is one of the most common causes of short-term and long-term absence (CIPD, 2012). The HSE estimate that 2,000,000 people in the UK are currently suffering from an illness caused by, or made worse by, their work environment and if allowed to pile up, can lead to deeper mental health problems and personal distress. 

At Acorn Occupational Health we can provide an anonymous Stress/Wellbeing Audits which help provide an insight to any stress issues that your company may have, alongside management referral appointments with a nurse to help employees open up about any stresses at home or work. For more information regarding services that may be of benefit to your workplace, please contact us on 01260 277797 or info@acornoh.co.uk.

Mental Health Day

Working with Mental Health

By Awareness, Mental Health, News

Mental health affects us all. How we think, how we feel and how we live our daily lives. Mental health illnesses refer to a wide range of conditions that relate to how a person feels, perceives a situation, and behaves. These range from mild levels to quite severe, depending on the strength of the illness, of which there are over 200 classified forms. 

If you struggle with your mental health, you may find that the ways you react to certain situations and feel about things becomes difficult. Similarly, if you had a physical illness, a broken wrist would affect your daily tasks such as driving, lifting, and even eating. Most people would see their Doctor and undertake appropriate treatment. However, mental health has not always been looked upon in the same efficient way.

Now more than ever, looking after your mental health is just as important as taking care of your physical health. The whole world is currently going through a monumental shift and historic moment in time. This means we all need to keep our mental health in check to ensure we can live and work to the best of our ability, no matter what life throws at us.

Getting to know the Facts and Figures 

Mental health has become mainstream in the press and media over recent years, with more and more people opening up about their past and current difficulties with their mental health. However, few of us know how to differentiate between one disorder to another. 

Depression – Around 3 million people in the UK are diagnosed with depression every year, making this the highest and most common form of mental illness not just in the UK but also worldwide. The mental health charity, Mind, have researched that more than half of these people will or have tried to commit suicide because of their illness. 

Anxiety – In a lifetime, most people will have the feeling of anxiousness whilst coping with stressful events or changes, particularly if it has a big impact on your life. 25% of anxiety sufferers are between the ages of 13 and 18 years old. Spotting any early signs of anxiety is essential, especially for young people, to support them and prevent further mental health illnesses.

Bipolar – Bipolar is a type of depression that is often characterised with mood swings from one extreme to the other. From feeling high to crashing to a depressively low mood. 

Stress – Most of us have, or certainly will experience some strain of stress in our lifetime. 85% of UK adults are experiencing stress regularly. Although stress is not a psychiatric diagnosis, it can cause and aggravate underlying mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. An individual may think that this is well controlled but added stressors can potentially pull these issues to the surface.

It has been noted that 1 in 5 people will call in sick due to workplace stress. Although it may not feel so at the time, starting a conversation about mental health doesn’t have to be difficult. More than 60% of employers said that they would like to do more to improve staff wellbeing but need specialist guidance of how to do so in the correct and most effective way. 

Spot the Signs

Early intervention is key in the diagnosis of a mental health illness and supporting someone that may be struggling to come to terms with the illness. Many people suffer in silence when they have a mental health condition and reports show that just 21% of people with a mental health condition are actively in employment. By tracking absence, employers can identify when people are taking regular days off sick or more days than usual. This could be the first sign that there may be underlying mental health conditions.

Act now, before it is too late

Statistics from ‘The Shaw Mind Foundation’ show that within the UK, mental health problems in the workplace cost the economy approximately £70 billion annually. Employers need to be actively thinking about their workplace culture from the start. This is something that will naturally grow and develop with a business, but you need to be influencing it daily. What do you want your working environment to be like? Remember that individuals are all different and that people will naturally shine and possibly struggle in different ways. Addressing and assisting in these areas will create happy workers, which is not only a positive mental influence, but employers will gain a more productive workforce that has full confidence in their company.

Listen – Always take time to listen to your employees. The first signs of spotting a change in the workplace can come from contact with fellow workers. Engaging with the whole workforce regularly and encouraging discussions can flag up any early concerns.

Take a Break – Encourage employees to step away from their workstation. Take a walk in the fresh air or walk to a local café to grab a coffee. This can intercept the feelings of stress before they become overwhelming. 

Support Training for Managers – Specialised mental health charities like ‘Mind’ hold training and consultancy courses to support HR and managers around various areas of mental health including Emotional Intelligence and Supporting Someone with Mental Health. This can provide essential guidance and support for employers. 

Appraisals – Regular appraisals are great for everyone, especially someone who may be feeling vulnerable, stressed or overwhelmed. It’s a great way to have a one to one and discuss any potential adjustments or support that can be put in place. And also, to give credit where credit is due.

Use your Occupational Health – Having an Occupational Health service can provide that steppingstone between an employee and a manger which can prove helpful if there are any workplace stressors. Gaining guidance from a professional is valuable not just for the employee, but essential to the employer. Occupational Health provide medical guidance on how to support an individual at work and assist in the correct way.

At Acorn Occupational Health we have seen an active increase in workplace absence directly linked to mental illnesses. There is no way to pin-point the cause of a mental health problem as they are all individual to that person, however, getting that person fit and healthy, and back into work, significantly increases when there is a support system at work that can be relied upon.

Acorn Occupational Health can also help you with a great range of programmes and workshops to help further support your goals of promoting positive mental health in the workplace…

Well-Being Audit (Stress Audit)

This is a questionnaire based anonymous stress audit for businesses. It enables the employer to understand whether there are significant issues regarding employee well-being. It considers the most prevalent stressors in the organisation, whether they are real or perceived and an employee’s ability to cope. A report is then produced for the employer that offers advice regarding approaches that may reduce stress in the workplace.

BOUNCE Back Workshop

Acorn have recently launched a ‘BOUNCE Back Workshop’ which helps individuals with their mental health and resilience. This is a 1-day course where individuals will be given an understanding of stress, how to identify its potential sources, maintain focus in difficult situations and how to remain calm, in control and emotionally balanced. It also gives managers the correct advice in order to provide the appropriate support to employees and colleagues.

All of the tools taught on the workshop enable an individual to ‘bounce back’ from setbacks that might occur at any stage. 

Stress / Resilience Training 

What does stress look like? What exactly is stress?  This training covers the effects of stress and how you as an individual or an employer can learn to help. It also covers personality types along with the factors affecting how someone reacts to pressure and how employers can help to support these situations.

Well Persons Medical

This is a comprehensive medical assessment where employees are reassured that they are in good health, or that early action could prevent ill health. Dependant on your requirements, the medical can include blood pressure, pulse, urinalysis, mental health review, vision, cholesterol and glucose checks, a musculoskeletal review, weight and advice about lifestyle, diet and fitness.

EAP (Employee Assistance Programme)

Acorn’s Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, online and on the telephone. Designed to answer your questions immediately or to refer you to the most appropriate advisor, counsellor or source of information. The service includes legal, financial, consumer and personal advice and it is all completely confidential.

Counselling

Acorn can arrange counselling referrals with trained professionals who complete therapies such as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. We can also arrange appointments with Psychiatric specialists, depending on the individual’s requirements.

Whether it is yourself that is dealing with a mental illness, or have an employee who is suffering, it is key to recognise that with the right guidance and help, a mental health illness is one that can be treated.

Don’t ignore your concerns, start your recovery now.  For more information on the services that Acorn provide, please contact the office on 01260 277797 or email info@acornoh.co.uk.

And for further information and advice on mental health issues, be sure to read the incredible resources, research and guidance at www.mind.org.uk

Coronavirus – Don’t isolate your mental health

Coronavirus – Don’t isolate your mental health

By Coronavirus, Mental Health, News

Over the past few weeks it is safe to say that the majority of us have had to adapt to a new ‘norm’. Whether you work in production, administration, healthcare, or public services, everyone is having to adjust their way of working due to the Coronavirus, including occupational health providers.

We have received many requests from employers, regarding their employee’s mental health and fitness to work. Employers are asking what they should be doing to protect their workforce and ensure that their business survives these uncertain times, as well as offering advice to their employees of what they can do to take care of themselves at home…

Look after yourself

If you are working from home, self-isolating or furloughed, you still need to make sure that your time and workspace are manageable and comfortable. This doesn’t just stop at the comfort of your chair; it also relates to your personal wellbeing and mental health. Taking time for yourself during this pandemic is incredibly important and can help to protect your mental wellbeing.

Working from home

Although it can be tempting to sit in your comfy clothes with your laptop on your knee, it is necessary to keep some sort of routine. Where possible, try to have a dedicated ‘work area’. Set an alarm, shower, get dressed and be ready for your day as normal. It’s amazing what a difference getting dressed for work makes, even if you’re working in your spare room.

No work commutes mean that there may be time for some mediation or relaxing stretches in the morning. Check out a quick 10 minute yoga video if you can – A fantastic combination of physical and mental exercise. You have the luxury of being able to take your coffee break in the garden and indulge in that book you have never quite had time to read.

Working from home can be challenging enough trying to set boundaries and create a new norm, but being at home 24/7 can also cause severe social isolation which can be detrimental to many people, whether they have any underlying mental health issues or not. That is why it is so important to stay connected to friends, family and work colleagues as much as you can.

There are lots of positive things that can come from this pandemic and it can really make us appreciate the smaller things that life offers, but to do this, we need to be healthy both physically and mentally.

What can employers do to help?

As an employer, you have a duty of care to your workforce, but it can be difficult to control if you have employee’s working from home, furloughed and high risk / potentially infected team members. Everyone is dealing with their own levels of stress and worry, as well as businesses trying to stay afloat and keep the paddles turning.

However, there are a few easy ways in which you can support your business and employees right now:

Stay in touch – Staying in contact via a group email is enough, but why not call your employees and check in with them? Isolation can be tough on everyone, particularly if you have a mental health impairment. Just a simple phone call can be enough to lift spirits, and make your employees know you care about their wellbeing.

Signpost to an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) – If you have an EAP in place, ensure that everyone knows the benefits of this system and encourage the full use of it. This could be a crucial lifeline to those in isolation.

Lean on occupational health resources – Acorn are offering a variety of services to help vulnerable employees through this testing time.

– Mental Health Support – Telephone consultations with a nurse or mental health first aider for employees that may be struggling with their mental health and require professional advice.

– COVID-19 Triage Calls – We are assisting HR to manage vulnerable and high-risk employees, providing guidance relating to social distancing, shielding and protection of others.

– Management Referrals – A 60-minute telephone assessment with a nurse to assist both employees and employers with a return to work following absence.

– Electronic Paper Screening via Orchid – Acorn are delivering all of their health surveillance via quick and easy electronic screening to guarantee that social distancing measures are met, but to also ensure employers are continually meeting their legal requirements with regards to health surveillance and not falling behind. This does not involve any movement of paper, just a quick click to send an email questionnaire to an employee.

Support from work

We have never seen our country in a ‘lockdown’ position and everyone is learning to adapt, including employers from all types of businesses.

Although there are uncertain times ahead for many industries, it is worth spending time and thinking about what is important to your company? How will you kick start again after this pandemic? Well, your employees are going to be a huge part of this, which is why they need to be supported, more so now than ever.

Guiding your workers, staying in contact and keeping them informed on changes is incredibly important. Particularly if you know someone is vulnerable or has had previous mental ill-health.

When this is all over, you want your staff to return to the workplace feeling positive and excited for the tasks ahead.

Employers have a duty of care to their employees and there is plenty that you can do to support vulnerable workers whilst away from the workplace. If you need more information regarding the services that Acorn offer, call us on 01260 277797.

Stay safe.

3 Words

3 Simple Words

By Mental Health, News

How are you? Want to talk? Can I help? Need a friend? Are you OK? I’m always here…

Sometimes it is 3 simple words, said with meaning, that can really help transform someone’s thoughts and feelings for the better. They are often said in passing, but how often do you feel a person really means what they say?

During uncertain times, it is more important than ever before to spend time connecting with those who may be struggling under the surface, whether that be friends, family, work colleagues or employees. If you are feeling vulnerable or lonely, reach out to those who care. There are many ways that you can connect.

Keep in touch digitally

  • Make plans to video chat with those you would normally see in person.
  • Arrange phone calls or send texts.
  • If you’re worried that you might run out of topics to talk about, make a plan with someone to watch a show together or have one ready to chat about once it’s finished.
  • While you can’t meet in person, you could check social media to get up to speed with what people are up to and send a message.

Connect with others in similar situations

  • If you are feeling anxious about Coronavirus or having to stay at home more than usual, you may find it helpful to talk these worries through with someone you trust, especially if they are in a similar situation. 
  • The charity ‘Mind’ runs an online peer support community called Elefriends where you can share your experiences and hear from others. This may help your confidence when speaking to others.
  • If your home feels too quiet, put the radio on! Radio is a fantastic companion to turn to when you need a friendly voice.
  • Speak to work colleagues who may have been furloughed or are working from home to see how they are coping with the change.
  • It’s not always vulnerable people that suffer with their mental health at times of distress, it can affect us all, at any time. This is why it is important to stay connected and always think about those 3 simple words, and the positive impact they may have.

Employer Support

There are many ways in which you can support an employee’s mental health during the coronavirus pandemic, that too involves communication and keeping in touch with employees.

Occupational health consistently offers support for an employee’s mental health even if they’re furloughed or working from home. Acorn have mental health first aiders who are conducting telephone calls, nurses completing video referrals and a whole team of advisors willing to point you in the right direction and offer the correct support to your employees when they need it most.

3 simple words – We support you. Lean on us. We are here. Our nurses care. Call the team.

Mental Health Awareness Week 18th – 24th May

#SpeakYourMind

Choose to Talk

By Mental Health, News

Cut the stigma around mental ill health

What does the term ‘mental health’ mean to you? Quite often, due to its stigma, it is linked to negative connotations – that someone is ’mad’ or to ‘avoid them, they are crazy’. Which in reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Mental disorders can be triggered by a variety of genetic and environmental factors, of which one person cannot predict will happen to them or how it will affect them mentally.

Often, when someone is going through mental ill-health, it stems from a negative influence, which could be why there is a ‘grey cloud’ over the definition ‘Mental Health’. We are getting to a point now where people are openly talking more about mental illnesses, but there is still an immense negativity hanging over the term ‘Mental Health’.

Talking about feelings can often be the beginning of what can feel like a marathon for someone who is struggling with their mental health. 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health related breakdown. The more open conversations that happen, the more myths that can be broken about mental illnesses.

As individuals, employers and human beings, we need to help end the isolation that can often come with a mental illness. Raising positive awareness of mental health issues will help managers to support colleagues and staff who are struggling at work whilst addressing the needs of the business.

It’s Time to Talk

It is important to understand that mental ill-health can effect anyone, at any time of their life. They can be linked to personal issues, work problems or relationship breakdowns. The ‘strongest’ of people can often be the ones suffering most, as a mask gets pulled down and a smile gets painted on, no one would know any different. Just asking how somebody is can really make the world of difference to someone on their darkest day. Time to Talk Day encourages individuals to do just that – talk to each other!

Time to Talk Day – 6th February 2020 has been developed and is led by the charities ‘Time to Change’, ‘Mind’ and ‘Rethink Mental Illness’. This day encourages everyone, including businesses to add to the larger conversation and address the sigma around mental health, especially in the workplace.

Games, social events, printable materials and small encouragements such as stepping away from your desks to have a coffee and a chat can be great opportunities to start up a conversation around mental health, and act as that first stepping stone which could potentially be life changing for someone.

Speak up if you’re struggling. Talking does not make someone weak. It makes them human” – Andrew Solomon, a motivational author who has suffered with anxiety and depression.

Something as simple as talking can be a great step forward for anyone who may be suffering in solitude with their mental ill-health. Time to Talk have some fantastic resources on their website such as posters, email templates, games and activities to encourage talking about all aspects of mental health in the workplace that you can find here:

https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/get-involved/time-talk-day

https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/sites/default/files/TtC%20Workplace%20Activity%20Pack%202020_0.pdf

Employee Assistance Programme – (EAP)

Alongside the face to face support within the workplace, there is also a professional service that can be offered to employees that is practical and confidential.

Acorn’s Employee Assistance Programme is a service that can help an individual at a time when they maybe don’t know where to turn.

The service is available 24/7 with trained service representatives at the end of every phone, ready to guide you to the best specialist support or counselling. Whether it’s a personal issue, coping with grief, workplace pressure, financial troubles, parenting challenges or a question that you just don’t know where to get the answer, the EAP system is designed to answer any questions immediately, where applicable, or refer you to the most appropriate advisor, counsellor or source of information.

This has proven a successful tool from start to finish for many companies. Having a number to call instantly when faced with troubles and being able seek guidance before a mental illness comes into the picture, an employee can speak to someone that is qualified to give accurate support.

But what is most important, it gives a person a safe place to talk to a professional. If an employee has been away from the workplace, they can use this service to help them comfortably get back into work knowing that they have the EAP system in place to support them through the process.

At Acorn Occupational Health, we like to practice what we preach and have an EAP for all of our staff as well as offering this as a service to other businesses.

We are also enthusiastically participating in Time to Talk Day 2020. Have a look on our social platforms to see what we are actively doing to cut the stigma of mental health in the workplace.

By changing how we talk about mental health issues, we can begin to impact negative mindsets and behaviours which affect so many people.

Let’s make a difference, today.